Combat Shoplifting Charges with a Chicago Retail Theft Lawyer
When most people think about shoplifters, they picture two types of people: teens seeking a thrill and professional thieves trying to take as much as they can to sell it. But while these people certainly exist, there are many reasons why someone might get charged with retail theft.
Maybe you lost your job and needed food to feed your family. Or you tried it once and became addicted to the excitement. And then there are those who didn’t even know they were shoplifting – their kid put something in their bag, they shoved something in a pocket because they didn’t have anywhere else to put it, or they simply didn’t realize that what they were doing constituted retail theft.
Chicago shoplifting attorney Howard J. Wise has seen it all over the course of his career. As a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, he worked to prosecute people from all walks of life for stealing any number of items from stores. During his time there, he learned how Chicago prosecutors think and watched as many otherwise law-abiding people had their lives ruined with shoplifting charges.
When he became a defense lawyer more than 18 years ago, he decided to use his knowledge to make sure everyone gets a fair shot to tell their side of the story and have their rights protected.
Do You Need a Chicago Shoplifting Attorney for a Retail Theft Charge?
In a word: yes.
Far too many people in Illinois see shoplifting charges as no big deal – but the penalties you face can be incredibly severe. All but one type of retail theft crime in our state is charged as a felony, and even the one misdemeanor charge carries a potential 1-year prison term with it.
Here’s how the various charges break down:
- Class A Misdemeanor. Your charge if the value of the property taken is $300 or less. Penalties include up to 1 year in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.
- Class 4 Felony. If an emergency exit was used in the commission of the crime or the defendant has been convicted of theft or related crimes in the past, charges are bumped up to a Class 4 felony. Penalties include 1 to 3 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.
- Class 3 Felony. If someone has previously been convicted of theft or related crimes and they use an emergency exit, the charge becomes a Class 3 felony. This is also the case if someone steals property worth more than $300, either in a single transaction or if multiple thefts within a single year add up to more than $300. Penalties include 2 to 5 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- Class 2 Felony. If someone steals property worth more than $300 over the course of a single year and uses an emergency exit, charges are bumped up to a Class 2 Felony. Penalties include 3 to 7 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.
But there’s more. Regardless of which charge you face, there is another penalty that comes automatically: the blemish on your criminal record.
This may seem like a small thing, but having a criminal record means that your crime will show up any time anyone does a background check on you. People who have criminal records tend to have a harder time getting good jobs, finding housing, securing loans, and getting in to college.
Illinois allows for some charges to be expunged or sealed, but this will not be an option if you are convicted. It is incredibly serious, and it will stay with you for the rest of your life.
An Illinois Shoplifting Lawyer Reveals Different Ways You Can Be Charged
The way Illinois retail theft laws are written, sometimes people don’t even understand that they are committing retail theft. When a security guard accosts them and they are informed that they are being arrested and charged, it is a shock. Unfortunately, ignorance of the law rarely works as a defense.
Here are some different kinds of shoplifting as defined in our state:
- Taking merchandise out of a store without paying. This is what most people think of as shoplifting. You hide an item (or brazenly carry it in the open) and leave the store without paying for it.
- Putting items in a different container. If you move merchandise from one container to another, this can constitute retail theft. The rationale is that thieves do this to hide higher priced items. But what if you were using a container as storage and simply forgot?
- Switching a price tag or label. It is illegal to switch one price tag with another in order to get a good deal on something. But what if someone else switched the tag and you didn’t know?
- Making a false return. Have you ever purchased an item from one store and returned it to a different one? What if the item in question was a gift and you weren’t sure where it came from? Technically, it is considered shoplifting to engage in this kind of behavior.
- Keeping something past the lease date. If you lease your car or furniture and have trouble getting it back to the store or dealer when the lease ends, this is a type of retail theft.
- Defeating anti-theft devices. You don’t even have to steal something to be charged with shoplifting. Simply taking off an anti-theft device can be grounds for you to face charges.
Chicago Retail Theft Attorney: You Can Beat Your Charges
Howard J. Wise has been helping Chicago area clients just like you to get charges reduced or dropped for over 18 years. With an in-depth knowledge of defense strategies and a personal understanding of how prosecutors will try to prove their case against you, Mr. Wise is a secret weapon against injustice, dedicated to protecting the rights of the accused.
If you decide to work with Howard J. Wise, you will find him a relentless ally in your corner. He not only understands the law and what to do to get you the best outcome, but also how to explain things in a clear and straightforward manner so you always understand what’s going on and the options that you have available. Perhaps that’s why Mr. Wise continues to enjoy a 10/10 Avvo rating and is able to boast numerous positive client testimonials.